From the outside looking in, distributing music should be simple right? As an artist, my life consisted of uploading music on a computer to whatever platform was the go-to at the time. You watch that progress bar, fill out the title and go! Music creators are creating music at an amazing rate but we want to make sure that your music is distributed.
In the digital distribution age, your CD Baby, Tunecore, Distrokid, and Gvng Music Distro era consists of the same thing, right? The mission is to get my music on Spotify and in iTunes right? Maybe, but it’s a bit more complicated. Let’s go over the actual processes of distribution and discuss some important do’s and don’ts so you won’t have any issues later.
The most important part of this discussion centers around one word. Metadata. What is Metadata? It’s a set of data that describes and gives information about other data. In terms of music, metadata is the information that accompanies your music files that tell everything that is needed to be told about the who, what, when, where, and why of your music. Remember that time you tried to organize your iTunes library? It’s just like that, but for your own music.
The Importance of Metadata in the Distribution Process
- Who is the artist?
- Who is the producer?
- Who is the composer?
- Who is the lyricist?
- Who mixed the record?
- Who mastered the record?
- Who is the record label?
- Who is the publisher?
- What genre of music is this?
- What is the BPM?
- What is the key is of the song?
- What are the lyrics?
- What is the ISRC code?
- What is the ISWC code?
- What is the language?
- What is the mood or vibe?
- When was the music recorded?
- When was the music released?
- Where was the music created?
- Where was the music mixed?
- Where was the music mastered?
Why was this music made? Why should I listen to it?
Distribution can be confusing.
I know it seems like a lot and our creative brains just want to upload and go but this information lives with our music FOREVER!!! It is vital that we take the time to gather these things and fill them out properly. Sliced Kiwi went into detail about why you should plan out your release. Many distributors don’t care how you fill them out. They just want your money. As a creator who has made music and messed up the metadata, I can tell you that it leads to a lot of issues on the backend including loss of money. Your metadata helps to set the wheels in motion for proper credit, which leads to proper payment. In summary, metadata = money. How much money? According to musically, hundreds of millions of dollars are in the US industry’s black box due to incorrect or missing metadata.
Some of the biggest mistakes I have seen since running a distribution platform take place in the metadata section. The first begins with the artist’s name and title. I know you thought your artist name was unique. All your friends and family call you by that name. When I started out as 2 Gun Ciz, I did a quick Google search. There was a lot of traffic so I started to play around with different spellings. First I added an n to Gunn. Finally, I added an ew to 2ew (tew) and voila, uniqueness was born. Also, here is a fun fact. The name was taken from one of my favorite comic book characters and Avenger, Two Gun Kid.
I did a statewide check on business name availability and then I checked the trademark office to see if the name was taken. Last, but not least, I did a domain check to see if the name was available. When it comes time to release, my music is attributed to me.
When Spotify, Tidal, Apple, etc receive the music from distributors like us, they attribute it to the most popular usage of the name given. If your music name is taken, you’re going to have to go through the process of fixing it on several platforms because they all have their OWN systems. There is no central database that they all use to make sure your music ends up on your profile. This always ends up in a frustrating email from an artist to us about their music being on the wrong profile. Most times, this could have been avoided. Some stores (DSPs) allow for proactivity but most require the fix to take place after the fact. To further complicate matters, if your release was scheduled within a week or two, you might not get it to the right profile in time because many of these platforms take 7-15 business days to correct music sent to the wrong profile. Why does it take a song so long? Accordingly to Spotify, they’re uploading around 60k tracks per day and that’s just one DSP. Imagine correcting just 5% of those for profile issues. That’s 3,000 fixes a day.
Give your release some time.
It’s a hit single. We know. We get it. You’re amped!. Excited! The mix is great. The cover is fresh. You want this out NOW!!!! In reality, you should plan out your release for many reasons. The first is to allow for marketing so there is anticipation and a vehicle for proper promotion so your song doesn’t end up in music distribution hell with a lot fewer listens than you hoped for. The second is to make sure you have properly registered your song with your PRO, Pub Admin, etc, and properly credited your collaborators. The third is to allow for your music to get to stores and to allow for any changes that might arise because of an error in metadata. We know. It’s our fault. We got it. We will work with you to ensure the release gets to stores as fast as possible but each release has to go through QUALITY CONTROL. The QC process is based on rules that come from the DSPs (Apple mostly, but also Spotify, Youtube, etc) This includes things about special character usage ($*#@), language, capitalization, cover quality, size, and other metadata headaches. We have an ENTIRE support section dedicated to helping you get it right but who reads all that right? (amirite?) Our content style guide contains all the rules and regs from the DSPs so your music will be accepted the first time. We know. You just want the music out. I get it. We do too.
When your music bounces back from QC, we have to rush to fix it and get it back in the line to get checked again. We hate it as much as you do, but once again, there is a process and it involves many people like yourself wanting to just get the music out.
I’m a credit guru. Since 2018, I’ve compiled and published credits from some of the biggest albums in music. Artists, managers, producers, engineers, and labels have reached out to me about their credits firstly through the former istandard producers website and later on freemusiccredits.com. Major labels submit music a certain way and you should follow their lead. Open tidal if you’d like to double-check my work. Here is how you should compile the credits for your music. Below is the new Migos and Drake song, “Having Our Way”. While you may not have as many people involved, the categories and the use of pseudonyms and real names are very important. I will explain why below.
|Having Our Way||featuring Drake|
|Producer||Azul Wynter, Jack LoMastro, Kevin “Coach K” Lee, Pierre “P” Thomas, Preme, Wallis Lane|
|Composer||Amir Stivie B, Aubrey Drake Graham, Jackson Paul LoMastro, Kiari Kendrell Cephus, Kirsnick Khari Ball, Nima Jahanbin, Paimon Jahanbin, Quavious Keyate Marshall, Tyshane Thompson|
|Lyricist||Amir Stivie B, Aubrey Drake Graham, Jackson Paul LoMastro, Kiari Kendrell Cephus, Kirsnick Khari Ball, Nima Jahanbin, Paimon Jahanbin, Quavious Keyate Marshall, Tyshane Thompson|
|A&R Admin||Aldo Davalos, Liz Isik|
|A&R Coordinator||Asha Solai|
|Assistant Mixer||Jeremie Inhaber|
|Associated Performer||Azul Wynter, Beam, Drake, Jack LoMastro, Offset, Preme, Quavo, Takeoff, Wallis Lane|
|Asst. Recording Engineer||Buster Ross|
|Executive Producer||Kevin “Coach K” Lee, Pierre “P” Thomas|
|Mastering Engineer||Michelle Mancini|
|Mix Engineer||Chris Galland|
|Programming||Azul Wynter, Beam, Jack LoMastro, Preme, Wallis Lane|
|Rap Vocalist||Offset, Quavo, Takeoff|
|Recording Engineer||DJ Durel|
|Studio Personnel||Buster Ross, Chris Galland, DJ Durel, Jeremie Inhaber, Manny Marroquin, Michelle Mancini|
Artists and Producers should use their aliases. For example, mine is 2ew Gunn Ciz. Songwriters should use the name they register their works with. Artists(if they wrote or co-wrote the song) and producers are both considered composers and lyricists. These should be under the name you register your works with which is most likely your government name. It’s not always the case but if you aren’t sure, default to the government name. Last, but not least, credit your engineers. If you mixed it, credit yourself. Credits also serve as a resume and folks might be looking to hire you or the person who you used.
Lyrics won’t share themselves
Most distributors allow you to upload your lyrics. Our service allows you to add them easily when you add the metadata.
You should also create an account on Genius. If you want your lyrics delivered to platforms for an enhanced experience, MusixMatch is a must. You can sign up and claim your artist account or accounts you represent if you are a label or manager.
You can also download the desktop app. For more on how to use musixmatch, we made this helpful video.
In closing, proper metadata should be standard and it should also be encouraged at ALL levels of the process, from the music on your computer to the music in your cloud storage or on your hard drive, to the music you upload for release. Once you start monetizing your music, this will all really make sense and cents. If you have any specific questions about distributing music, the processes involved with distributing music, proper metadata, royalty collections, or anything else mentioned above, reach out to me or one of my Bounce Gvng team members. We got you covered.